Nine years ago my mom and I were in a hotel breakfast room in Longview, Texas when we smelled something glorious. It wasn’t the waffles on the iron or the coffee brewing but something wafting from another guest nearby. After mom and I were done falling over ourselves at the smell, we asked the woman what she was wearing and she replied that it was Estée Lauder’s Tuberose Gardenia. Mom bought a bottle not long after that and a few years later I was gifted a bottle for Christmas. Every time I walk by our gardenia in May I’m reminded of that perfume and that time. Ah, 9 years ago—we were in town to visit my friend Michelle’s daughter who had recently been born….and oh, that she’s 9 years old now! With my niece following in that manner in August! What???
The gardenias bloom their heads off for the month of May and a smidgen into June and then they are done. Sometimes the scent is so strong I can smell it around to the front of the house—the bush is on the back corner of our back porch. Summer will then have to be scented with fresh cut grass, tomato leaves, and honeysuckle until next May. Maybe one day I will figure out how to use the blooms for my benefit and bring the scent inside!
Appalachian Odyssey by Steve Sherman: This Appalachian Trail memoir was written in the 70s and I both loved it and thought it could have been developed much more. What was most fascinating about this book was how it showcased the changes in the trail from 40 years ago versus now—it wasn’t completely off roads then! Not only that it also routed through towns that it does not route through now. Some of the sentiment was similar—the hiker hunger, trying to avoid unscrupulous people, etc. It actually reminded me of hiking the Florida Trail to some extent in how few people were hiking the AT in the 70s and the trail development. The book was a great perspective into a different era in long distance backpacking!
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett: I. Loved. This. Book. I want Ann Patchett to be my friend. This book was a collection of new and old essays that cover all sorts of topics, from her days trying out for a police academy in the name of writing an article to writing about the dissolution of her first marriage and then later how she eventually remarried. There are so many great things about this book. I listened as an audio version, read by the author, and it will warrant a re-read at some point in the future.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: I re-read this for my podcast and I have mixed feelings about the book after analyzing it with a different thought process in mind as well as with some distance from childhood. I would not call this a children’s novel per se, more of a young adult novel because I did not realize how many adult themes were hidden in the book. I’m not talking about sex here, just how children were treated and talked down to, as well as some interesting cultural references from the early 1900s. I think I’ll need to re-read A Little Princess to see how it holds up.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: A very short audio essay but you can also listen and watch here.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey: I started reading this one last summer sometime but put it down and never picked it back up. What a shame because I wasn’t that far from finishing it and I ended up wrapping it up one evening awhile back. The author had an unknown illness which lead her being bedridden for years. While at a caretakers house she had a plant in her room and noticed a snail living on it. It became a companion of sorts and eventually was moved to a terrarium where it could live better. The author describes her life while bedridden as well as elaborating on the life of a snail. It is a quiet, sweet book and a good one to pick up!
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton: I think I’ve read Glennon’s Momastery blog a handful of times over the years, most of them before she became uber popular and an pal of Oprah’s. My familiarity with her has been mostly through other sites or magazines she’s written for and via social media. Therefore, I was not on any kind of bandwagon to read this book but after seeing enough people talking about it and it was available for download, I grabbed it. Glennon is a good writer and storyteller and as I was pretty much unfamiliar with most of her life story other than knowing she had addiction and eating disorder issues in the past, I knew not much else. I resonated with a lot of what she wrote in particular to women and feminism, the stay on the mat ethos, but by the end of the book I was left confused on how the book ended and by her post just prior to book release last August and now how she’s married to Abby Wambach. What happened in between the end of the book and last August? I mean, I did feel like her reconciliation with her husband was a little forced—she wasn’t 100% in it, you could tell—but he had betrayed her big time so what did you expect??? Anyway, very interesting and easy book, and if you need something to read this summer, pick it up.
Second Nature: A Gardeners Education by Michael Pollan:
Another book I started last summer but put down for unknown reasons. I actually finished reading it over a camping weekend earlier in May—hooray for being able to read in longer spurts again! While this book was published in 1991, written in the late 80s, it is really pretty much a timeless gardening narrative. I’ve not read any of Pollan’s other work though I’m familiar with him via the numerous articles and media stories he’s been on over the years, and this was a great introduction to his work. I was fascinated with the stories of the beginning of the organic movement as we now know it, the talk of seed companies that were just coming into existence that were seemed fringe but now are pretty mainstream. Fascinating book for gardeners!
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: After a bit of a slow start where I wondered where this book was heading, I ended the book wanting more and loving it! This YA novel—though, maybe high-school YA because of some very disturbing scenes re: Nazis and torture—is a fantastic novel for summer reading. There’s a second in the series with different characters and it looks like a prequel involving one of the characters from this novel and I plan on reading both. I’m also excited to see there there is maybe a movie in the works. Without giving away too much: basically the story is told from the points of view of two women in their early 20s living in the 1940s England during the war. One is an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot, the other is—without giving away much else, let’s just say also involved in the war effort. A plane crash in France and Nazis make this a fairly fast paced novel once you get into the book. Lots of holy crap moments sprinkled within.
Leave Me by Gayle Forman: I had a credit left on my loans for Hoopla Digital this month so I grabbed this last week in anticipation for the long weekend. It is an easy, beach-type read about a woman in her early 40s who has a heart attack and is trying to deal with the repercussions from the heart attack as well as some unresolved issues in her life with family. A fluffy book for the summer if you need something easy.
In the Middle Of
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer: This book! SO GOOD! I’m listening as an audiobook and it has taken me forever to ‘read’ it because I listen for an hour or two and then have to just ponder it. More about it when I finish.
The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon: This is a Lord John Grey novel in the Outlander universe but has to do with Jamie during the years that take place for the Voyager book. So if you’ve read through that book in the series you are totally ok to read this book. I’ve had it for awhile and hadn’t read it but wanted to prep myself for the next tv season of the show coming up in September. Definitely worth picking up for those Claire + Jamie fans out there!
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: Had a really hard time with this audiobook despite everyone raving about it. Might have to try it on paper instead.
What are you reading?
One evening about a month ago I was on the side yard garden taking photos. The light was getting good over there, a mix of darks and lights from the filtered evening sun, and I had been filling up one of Forest’s watering cans for him to water plants, or as what usually happens, his feet. Letting him play solo, in eye and ear shot, for a few minutes I wandered around the garden. When I came back to see what he was doing I found him making a muddy mess in a half filled planter that wasn’t being used by the potting bench. It was nearing bath time so I let him be, going to town with the mud and water and in general having a grand ol’ time!
The light continued to be good so I messed around with settings to see what I could come up with as he played. It reminded me of some of the mud pies I would make as a kid his age, where I played in a sand box near an old playhouse in the house I lived in from birth to 5 year old.
This kid is the best! In that second to last photo he is showing you an ‘icicle’—aka: triangle.
Forest and I are here at home this morning and I’m listening to a PBS cartoon and some eggs boiling before we head off in 30 minutes for a doctors appointment. Some inconsolable crying resulting in Forest finally telling me that his ears were hurting this morning at 6am. *sigh* Last September for his 2 year checkup at the pediatrician, the doctor was fairly certain one of his ear tubes had fallen out. Now I wonder if the other one is out and we’re back into ear infection territory. After some Tylenol was administered and some cuddling on the couch he is now acting like everything is normal but I know kids are a lot more happy-go-lucky when they are not feeling well, so off to the doctor we will go just to see what is going on.
The last six or eight weeks Chris has been working on and off over on Bolivar peninsula for a beach renourishment project. It is a close enough project that Forest and I could drive down there for the weekend when Chris was working so we’ve spent a few weekends doing some beach related activities down that direction. I’ve not spent a ton of time on Bolivar despite living in Galveston for four years in college so it was interesting to see that area a little more. If you recall, Bolivar was obliterated by Hurricane Ike back in 2008. On Mother’s Day we ate at a restaurant near Rollover Pass that had a photo showing how it was the only building that was still standing in the vicinity after the hurricane. Pretty surreal!
This growing out of toddler and entering little kid phase of life is pretty great for the most part and one of those items is going to the beach. Forest loves the beach and has been having fun playing in the surf zone, building sand castles, and looking for shells and sea glass. I definitely see him boogie boarding and maybe surfing in some distant (really, not so far distant—-*sobs*) future.
The black you see in some of the photos appears to be a beach stabilization project gone wrong. Bolivar peninsula is highly eroding—hence beach renourishment—and it was rather ugly seeing that plastic coming up off the sand.
An interesting article from Texas Monthly: My Frail Island
The last time I did this was back in 2013 and I only put a few songs on there—there were four but it looks like one was taken down from YouTube so it isn’t on there anymore. I’ve been listening to Spotify in the afternoons at work—podcasts in the morning, music in the afternoon is my mood these days—and I’ve got some songs that are making me really get the feel for summer. The humidity is ramped here and while it is spring on the calendar we might as well call it summer here.
1: Tom Petty Learning to Fly
2: The Head and the Heart Shake
3: Don Henley The Boys of Summer
4: Coldplay Strawberry Swing
5: The Secret Sisters He’s Fine —Just discovered them via Spotify the other day. Sooo good!
6: Amos Lee Windows Rolled Down
7: The Who Love Reign O’er Me
8: Crosby Stills and Nash Southern Cross
I’ll probably add more to the list over the summer.
I’m processing a lot of photos today so I hope to have more blogs up in the next week or so!
Six weeks have almost gone by since I took most of these photos. I’m so far behind but spending evenings outside is a good reason to be behind, right?
After dinner we hoof it outside, where we wander the yard or head to the vegetable or flower garden to inspect what’s going on. These days it is almost a necessity to drop by the vegetable garden because there is undoubtably something to be picked, even if it is a handful of cherry tomatoes. Sometimes we head out to a spot in the yard that I know something interesting is going on, such as when we had the orange dog caterpillars on the citrus, or if if there are monarchs on the milkweed. Some days we just putter, other days are more productive work in the garden. Lately Chris and Forest have been able to fish together; Forest has been able to sit still and follow directions on the dock and they will sit out there for a bit and fish, with Forest even reeling in some fishes.
It’s overcast tonight and drizzled earlier but I’m not expecting much in the way of rain, though I wish it would because we need it. The overcastness at least makes me feel less guilty about staying indoors sometimes, which is one reason I wish it would rain at least once a week around here! When it is bright and sunny it is easy to feel like you should be heading outside to enjoy the sunshine.
Despite all of that, it really is good that we are spending so much time outside and Forest is really getting to know plants and some animals. The other night we spotted a gray treefrog hanging out on a blackberry cane. Gray treefrogs are around but not nearly as common as their frog cousins the green treefrogs. Of course Forest looked for it the following night and I had to explain to him that I didn’t know where the frog went to. One day we watched a pileated woodpecker working on one of the dead pine trees in our neighbor’s yard and that kept him entertained for a little while.
Soon we will be turning the sprinkler on and filling up the little paddling pool (I can’t write those last few words without chuckling over a certain scene from Bridget Jones’ Diary!) for Forest to play in when the temperatures start soaring. Those days aren’t far away—I’m pretty much to the point where I’m going to have to shower when I do any lunch time gardening!
What do evenings look like for you right now?
I can’t remember when I last mentioned the monarchs in the garden, maybe back in late March or early April? I think I said that I’d just seen a few monarchs flitting about the yard but hadn’t seen any caterpillars yet—of course a few days later I found several caterpillars crawling all over the tropical milkweed. Keeping up with where they are has been a challenge, mostly because I think the birds might be eating a lot of them. Which is fine, that is nature’s duty, but I do feel like we really should consider the butterfly tents to raise them. Chris was concerned about having enough milkweed in pots to feed them, which he’s right about, but I dug three seedlings up out of the compost and potted those and we have quite a bit that he seeded in a large patch that we could dig another five or more plants up to pot and rotate out for feeding them. And the larger plants in the garden are already flowering which means we will have seed pods soon, which means we can easily start more seeds this summer to get more milkweed growing. Purchasing milkweed can be expensive if you can’t find it in 4-inch pots; often they are in gallon pots which are sometimes priced around $8 at the good, non-pesticide using nurseries.
My if-you-plant-it-they-will-come theory for the black swallowtails worked. Most of the dill that I planted in late fall/early winter was knocked back by the freezes but apparently whatever we grew in the garden last year reseeded itself heavily all over the place and we’ve got dill coming up everywhere. Which is totally fine by me because I’m working to dry it and save the seed for pickling, but it became a buffet for the black swallowtail caterpillars, too. I even saw one of the fennel that I had bought for them! But, when one day I had found upwards of 20+ caterpillars in various instars around the garden a few days later I was having trouble finding them. I think, again, the birds got to them while they were foraging strawberries and tomatoes, too.
The last one is a caterpillar I found while I was pulling weeds out of the cactus bed. I’d finally decided I’d had enough with the weeds in that bed—-we’ve been avoiding really weeding it for over a year now, though we’ve pulled some here and there, we’ve never tackled the whole thing because spines! So I got in there and started pulling and found this chompy friend hanging out in the gravel. I think it is an army worm of some kind, maybe either Spodoptera latifascia or Spodoptera ornithogalli and they turn into moths.
I have a couple of other interesting caterpillars we found recently while at Brazos Bend State Park but I still need to process those photos.
+In My Head
Loving the weather right now, though we could use a bit of rain! I finished an actual book made with paper this weekend—that felt good! I’ll talk a little bit about it in the reading section.
I’m thinking of dipping my toes back into the political realm again. I listened to a Pantsuit Politics episode and got a little bit of information about what is going on in the world but I’m not sure I’m completely ready yet. I have also started trying to listen to NPR and Democracy Now a little bit, but we will see how long that lasts!
Not a lot these days. With full evenings outside and a child who likes to boycott bedtime, I frequently don’t get to watch on time the few shows I am still keeping up with. Better Call Saul is back for its third season and is decidedly taking its turn into Breaking Bad territory. Yellow tint and all. My dad said he stopped watching after the first season but I think my brother is still on board and so far I’m sticking with the show. It’s a slow burn but I’m really enjoying it!
Call the Midwife is back again with new midwives and new stories from London’s East End in the early 1960s. I like how the show merges culture from that time and it is interesting to see the slow change from midwifery in homes to midwifery in hospitals and now the show is looking at how even the smaller medical outposts were being phased out for the latest and greatest in medical technology in the form of larger hospitals. I always get wistful after each episode.
And The Big Bang Theory is hitting it out of the park this season with some honest, if brief, segments with Bernadette and how she’s dealt with everything from breastfeeding to deciding to be a working mom. It is affirming to see that story woven into the show.
The one show I am looking forward to, with trepidation of course, is the Netflix adapation of Anne of Green Gables. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle a non Meagan Follows, Jonathan Crombie, Colleen Dewhurst saga. I’ve been mulling over an entire AOGG series re-read for a year now and just haven’t settled in to do so. The entire LMM collection is begging to be revisited.
+Outside My Window
Hummingbirds sipping from the mimosa tree, bats chirping in the evenings from their bat box along the driveway, deer nibbling from the yard in the evening.
Plants digging deep and getting ready to go all out with summer’s pending heat and humidity.
+In The Art Studio
Ok, seriously, I’ve been thinking of getting it cleaned up and in shape because Forest seems like he might be ready to spend 30 minutes at a time in there with me in the coming months. I’ll have to get him set up with his own craft items but I see this being something we can do in the evenings when it is dark again. We’ll see!
+In The Garden
Evvvvvverything! Savoring it all and a separate post or posts is/are coming soon!
As I mentioned above I finished an actual paper book over the weekend, Michael Pollan’s Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education which was written in 1991. I’ll probably write more about it when I do an April and May book report later this month, but it was a treat to read. For a 25 year old book, things haven’t changed and they’ve changed. I think the one thing that really stuck out to me was the language being used around climate change and how less confident people were about using it and stating equivocally that it was human influenced/induced. Ah, a quarter century changes everything!
I’ve been reading quite a lot lately, though am finding myself in a slight lull right now. That’s to be expected, I always seem to have a pause for a week or two before digging back in.
One of the more timely and relevant posts, especially for Florida outdoorists and hikers, would be this post from Florida Hikes: Closing the Big Bend Gap. It is about the recently opened gap after a huge swath of timber lands were sold and the trail has had to be rerouted. I think I was hoping it was a temporary affair but it looks like the Forest Service wants to make it permanent, which I think is a travesty to that section. I need to read the proposed reroutes and submit my comments and have got to find some time to do this. One of the proposed reroutes also avoids the Aucilla Sinks which is a HUGE travesty—that area is super cool and worth taking the trail by.
I’m due for another Florida Trail In The News round up, so maybe I can get one up soon.
I just finished a 2.2lb bag of Ruta Maya coffee the other day. I get mine at HEB and it lasts about a month. The price at HEB is steller, about $16 for that bag, a price you don’t find easily with coffee in that quantity. I’m back to a dark roast Starbucks blend for the time being.
My kombucha scoby bit the dust, again, because I neglected it. I can get another bit from my mom if I want but I’m so bad about being consistent with drinking the kombucha that I don’t know if I want it. I need to look into small batch kombucha brewing. I just can’t drink the amount that the recipe calls for and I’m hesitant to be adjusting ratios. Anyone out there brewed small batches of kombucha before?
+I pretty much think about plants and gardening when I’m not focusing on other things sooooo….plants it is!
+Digging into some older episodes of podcasts I love. Some I listened to 3 or 4 years ago but they are great to listen to again.
+Piling up the books to-read. So many books! I mostly flag them in HooplaDigital or Goodreads.
+Tomato season is upon us!
+Blackberry season is upon us, too!
+Toddlerhood turning into little-kid-hood. Yes, I miss Forest being little bitty but having him talking clearly (for the most part) and being able to follow directions (for the most part) and doing more things a independently has been wonderful. He’s also interested in watching us do things in the kitchen, which is fun too! And in the last few weeks he has been able to behave himself on the dock and fish with Chris, reeling them in, too! This means he get some quality time with Chris and I can have a few minutes to do something else. It is amazing what changes in a few months at this age!
What’s up with you?
Tomato season has arrived, finally. It seems like overnight the tomatoes went from one to two foot tall to reaching over the tops of their cages and onward for the sky. It’s been a dry spring compared to last year, though we’re getting about one good day of rain a week. Well, at least we were until the last two weeks. We seemed to have missed the storms that were supposed to come to frution with the last front that blew through. I have in my gut that we’re headed for drought again—don’t know why I feel like that, just do. I am enjoying the non-swamp aspect to our yard currently. What can I say, last year’s weather left me nervous about any major storm event that seems ready to blow through.
And so yes, tomato season has finally arrived. The Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes were the first to begin ripening. The plant produces very small tomatoes, supposedly cherry sized as per their name, but let’s go with a slightly larger than pea sized tomato. They are more like those small wine grapes you would find specially at the store. I would not call them cherry tomatoes at all. They are tasty, however, and remind me a lot of the Everglades tomatoes we grew in Florida. I tried germinating some Everglades seed we had but have not had any luck so far in getting them to sprout. A lot of my older seeds just did not germinate this year and I will probably try doing some larger seed sowing next December to see if I can get any to germinate. If not it will be time to order new seed. I enjoyed keeping the seeds we had from our time in Florida but if none are viable, I guess it is time to move on.
Second to ripen were the Sungolds. These are definitely a cherry sized tomato and one of the tastiest tomatoes, I think, and maybe one of the most grown tomatoes. The Romas were next and they are finally starting to ripen in batches. Soon I will have a San Marzano and a Bella Rosa tomato ready to eat. It has been a challenge getting Forest to understand that the green tomatoes aren’t ripe, and if you aren’t watching him closely he’ll come running up to you with a tomato saying “Got one!” or something similar. The kid just likes to pick fruit, which I understand, but I’m not going to have any tomatoes if he is unsupervised anywhere near the tomatoes! I can even be a few feet from him, turn my back to get a weed, and find him grabbing a tomato to pull off the plant!
Getting him to like tomatoes is probably going to take all summer, which is fine. I think he will come around, though. We were amazed how much he enjoyed pulling a carrot or two and eating them while we were in the garden most evenings, and after a few false starts with snap peas he came around to eating a few of those. Strawberries, of course, were easy to entice him with, and just tonight we pulled the very first blackberry of the season. After what I thought was going to be a no-go for him, he licked it and bit it slightly, he then asked for it to be washed (though we didn’t really need to). Once I washed it he chowed it down in a few bites, blackberry juice dribbling down his lip. We might not make it to the house with the bowls of blackberries this season! So yes, as for the tomatoes, I’ve been offering him the smaller ones which he will bit into, make a face, and then hand me back the tomato and say “Mom, eat it!” So, I do. But he keeps trying them when I offer, that’s the important part.
So much is going on with the garden and I have more to share from what we’re harvesting and what is blooming in the flower garden. More soon.